Violence against shopkeepers soars-survey

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LONDON, Oct 30 (Reuters) Violence, abuse and threats against British shopkeepers have soared with more than half a million incidents recorded over the past year, a report said today.

In what retailers described as an alarming rise, the number of cases of physical violence against shopkeepers across the country rose by 50 per cent - from four incidents per 1,000 employees to six per 1,000.

The online poll by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) also found violent threats against people working in the retail trade doubled to 16 incidents per 1,000 employees.

The annual BRC Retail Crime survey, based on answers from retail companies with a total annual turnover of almost 110 billion pounds - or almost half of total UK sales - said that verbal abuse, while decreasing, was now 15 cases per 1,000 employees.

The report also found that the cost of ''undetected customer theft'' rose almost 10 per cent over the past year to 830 million pounds.

The body also found the value of losses from detected theft - where a thief was apprehended and prosecuted - rose by the same amount to about 205 million pounds.

Over the past seven years, retailers have detected that more than one billion pounds has been stolen, it said.

The consortium's director general, Kevin Hawkins, said it was clear the ''current approach is not working''.

He labelled the increases in violence as ''alarming''.

''Last year shop staff were subjected to around half a million incidents of abuse or violence in their work places and retailers clocked up even greater losses to theft,'' he said in a statement.

He hoped the figures showing the high level of ''anti-social behaviour that shop workers are subjected to and the effect this has on their work and home life'' would put political pressure on the government to take action.

He said the authorities had to stop thinking that retail crime was ''committed by harmless petty criminals''.

''We have to dispel the common assumption that retail crime is victimless,'' he said.

''Retailers are a valuable asset to communities and should be at the heart of neighbourhood policing initiatives.'' REUTERS YA RAI1001

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